By Jayson Blair

Thirteen years ago today I was standing near the edge of the Brooklyn Bridge, looking across the East River as the World Trade Center burned. Today marks the 13th anniversary of the September attacks on New York and Washington. This has always been a difficult anniversary for me, and so many others who were touched by the attacks. My mind wants to shut out the horrors of that day, to minimize the attacks by telling myself how much worse they would have been if they had happened later in the workday when more than 40,000 people could have been in the buildings. And when I cannot shut it out, I feel sorrow and guilt that we, as journalists, did not pay more attention to the clarion call that came on February 26, 1993, when Ramzi Yousef, the cousin of the author of the 9/11 attacks, detonated a 1,336-bomb under the North Tower.

We knew of the possibility that some other terrorist would come back for those buildings. To be sure, the 1993 attack led to changes and a strong response by government and aggressive investigations by media. But was it enough? Could we have done more to have helped the 3,000 people who perished? Could we have done more to have helped prevent the suffering of so many others?

The point of rehashing the past is not merely an ephemeral exploration of guilt and sorrow. Part of the reason we study our history is to learn lessons. This year, those lessons of 9/11 that enter my mind each year were juxtaposed to a photograph that one of my colleagues, Katie Stout, took on the campus of George Mason University. Yesterday, September 10th was International Suicide Prevention Day. The picture captured 1,100 backpacks lying on the ground, each representing one of the more than 1,100 college students lost to suicide each year. If they had included markers for all the people who commit suicide in a year – more than 40,000, the equivalent – it would have covered the entire George Mason University campus. It would have almost filled the trade center on a busy day. The picture was haunting.

As anyone who is touched by suicide knows, the news that a loved one has taken their own life comes out of the blue like those planes on 9/11, shocking the system and leaving us confused. But as the dust settles, there are also lessons there to be learned. Some of them relate to warning signs that we can pick up. Others relate to rationalizations we make and minimizations we apply. But one of the lessons has to do with survivor’s guilt. As any warrior who has lost someone in a battle will tell you, it is very easy to fall into survivor’s guilt and get lost in your own pain, sorrow and anger.

Brian Malmon was a bright and charming student at Columbia University in New York. Students who wrote about him in the Columbia Daily Spector, the daily student newspaper on campus, said Brian “wowed audiences with his performances, enlightened readers with his journalism and inspired friends with his wit.” But Brian had returned home to Potomac, Maryland in 1999. He took his life with a gun on March 24, 2000. What many of Brian’s friends may not have known was that he had developed the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, a combination of the persistent psychosis of schizophrenia with the powerful mood swings of bipolar disorder. In 2000, according to federal statistics, there were 29,266 Brian Malmons.

Estimates suggest that each suicide immediately affects six other people (175,607). Based on the suicide rates from 1997 to 2010, it is estimated that there was more than 6 million survivors of suicide – loved ones who have had to live with the aftermath – in the United States.

One of those survivors is Brian’s sister, Alison. Alison founded Active Minds, a national organization that, as they say, “uses students as the driving force to change the perception about mental health on college campuses.” Alison created a group on her campus at the University of Pennsylvania after her brother died and that group has grown into a network of 399 chapters across the country. Alison has learned many lessons from the loss of her brother and has helped others carry forward those lessons. It was Alison’s chapter at George Mason that laid out the backpacks.

On this day of remembrance for 9/11, let’s not forget about yesterday.

Remember the 3,000 who died on September 11 and the 40,000, the same number of people it would have taken to fill those buildings who will die from suicide this year.

And let's not forget the lessons we can learn from our losses -- the ones that Alison did when Brian died; the ones that led to that powerful remembrance and image yesterday that might remind someone to ask for help, to lend a hand or do something else that makes a world of difference.

You know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your child is smart and talented. Standardized tests may even support your opinion. Yet, you don't see your child's gifts reflected in his or her school performance. Teachers complain about disorganization, inattentiveness, lack of follow-through, messiness, inability to sit still, lack of effort, inappropriate behavior, or taking too long to complete tasks. You hope so desperately that this year will be different, that maybe your child will finally get the perfect teacher.

Chances are that even the best teacher will expect your child to conform to an environment and structure that may not suit him or her very well. Some kids shine most brightly outside of the system's box. But since you can't change the perimeters of that box, you will have to help your child learn to shine within it.  The following techniques will enable you to provide a hefty portion of that help.

First, impose structure at home. Ironically, problems that include disorganization, messiness, and difficulty getting things done on time are exacerbated by environments that mirror these tendencies. Therefore, it is vitally important that you serve well-balanced meals at the same time everyday; that you establish inviolable routines for chores, homework, and getting ready for school; that household items, especially those that your child needs, are always in the same place; that your child has clean clothes at his or her disposal that can be put out the night before; and that you manage your time and your child's effectively so that you are never the cause of your child's tardiness.

Second, strongly reinforce positive behavior and ignore negative behavior. Kids who have problems with executive function don't get much in the way of praise. On the contrary, they are always the target of disapproval, which further exacerbates their symptoms. Catch your child doing something right every day, and make a big deal of it, and let bad behavior pass unnoticed. This can build new confidence and bring them out of the fog of inattentiveness that leads to all his or her other problems. Teach them as well that they don't have to be perfect to be loved and valued.

Third, spend a half hour every night playing a family game. This can be a board or a word game, or any game that requires both focus and interaction. Make it an enjoyable time, but also take note of what your child does well and poorly and how he or she responds to setbacks, losing, and winning. This will give you a window into your child's social behavior in school, and enable you to devise a plan, perhaps with an ADHD coach, that fosters improvement in that area.

The most important thing you can do, however, is remember that you do not want to change or lose faith in you child's basic self. The school-structure box is a fact of life, but doesn't define your child or your parenting. But by implementing the techniques outlined above, you can help your child make this year's school experience happily different, with or without the perfect teacher.

Like ADHD itself, college life tempts with irresistible distractions and inviting risks, so trying to cope with ADHD symptoms in such an environment might be more difficult than you expect. When a distraction, such as a party, presents itself, and you have a paper to write and a quiz to prepare for, your mom won't be there to keep you on track. But you can employ a few simple techniques that will serve you well and still allow you to partake in much of the fun and excitement that college has to offer.

One deceptively simple technique is self honesty. This requires admitting to yourself that you are unlikely to forgo an evening social activity to study; it is admitting that you intend to perform well and know you can, but will have great difficulty making yourself sit down to do your work, even without distractions; it is admitting that you have trouble getting up in the morning, and are at risk for missing those early morning classes. It is true that you are beginning college with a clean slate, and that anything is possible for you. But recognizing your weaknesses is the best way to keep them from defeating your strengths.

Once you have honestly confronted the challenges to your success, devise a game plan to outwit them. For example, if you know you won't be able to resist those evening dorm parties, plan to visit the library after your classes during the day and get your work done then. Make the evening party a reward for work performed, and don't allow yourself to attend any social gathering if you did not do your work during the day.

Even at the library, or wherever you choose to work, you might find it hard to buckle down. You see a friend, you log into Facebook, or you decide you'll have more energy for schoolwork if you go to the gym first. Begin with the most difficult task, and promise yourself that you only have to do the first problem, or write the first paragraph, or read the first chapter. Only continue if you feel engaged. Otherwise, your promise to yourself won't mean anything next time. Chances are though, that you will feel engaged and energized to continue. If not, at least you made a little headway.

If you can't for the life of you get out of bed in the morning, try to avoid registering for early morning classes. If that is not possible, get a loud alarm clock that you place far enough away from your bed that you must get up to shut it off. Set it so that you have enough time to get ready and eat a little something before class. Promise that you will reward yourself with a nap later in the day, and keep the promise.

Lastly, be fully present in whatever moment you have chosen for yourself. If you are at a party, don't spend it stressing about schoolwork. If you are writing a paper and hear laughter coming from down the hall, take a few deep breaths, count to ten, and remind yourself that you have chosen this time to focus on your paper.  Mindfully choose your activities, and always honor your choices.

The ultimate outcomes of any life changing process vary significantly by person, given our different needs, skills, limitations and experience. But there are some basic things that you can expect from a career coach whether in or outside of our practice.

Career coaching is a partnership that is designed to help people assess their options and is a place where they can also make important decisions about the direction of their career.  A career coach starts by asking a series of questions designed to address skills, abilities, job experiences and goals. These questions are also used to determine qualifications for potential positions, and to understand the personality of the client. After recording the answers and thinking about them, it is a career coach’s job to talk to the client about his or her strengths and weaknesses, and discusses the desired goals.

Sometimes a career coaching client comes in knowing exactly what field they want to enter. Other times clients have no idea what they want to do. In other situations, clients want to continue what they are doing, but want to do better, move into leadership roles or improve their work-life balance. Career coaching is designed to be flexible and is able to adjust for all of these scenarios.

The coach is the primary motivator and encourager, providing clients with mentoring, motivation and accountability and fills two needs for an individual.  One is the experience and knowledge they have in finding new careers. The second is to personally motivate an individual and keep him/her on track.
The client should set one or more goals, ranging from goals climbing the corporate ladder to attaining a position with more authority to a goal of pursuing higher education. These goals are intended to ultimately place the client in a career which he or she genuinely enjoys, and they often include a variety of assessment tests to determine personality and aptitudes. Once the goals are set, client and coach talk about a time line for achieving them, and the partnership moves to the next stage. The career coach’s job is to offer encouragement and advice by providing tips on the best way to apply for specific positions and hold mock interviews to relax and prepare the client.

Through expertise in career development and labor markets, the coach get the most out of people’s qualifications, experience, strengths and weakness into a broad perspective taking into consideration their desired salary, personal hobbies and interests, location, job market and educational possibilities.

Among a lot of other things, a career coach can administer and interpret assessments and inventories to assess work values, interests, skills and competencies and help identify alternative career options for people in transition that capitalize on individual knowledge, skill and ability profiles. Coaches and clients also collaborate to help develop specific career paths with experience, knowledge, abilities, and skills defined. Coaches can also help clients overcome issues such as lack of self-confidence, and their fears of success/failure and work with the client to create career development plans to help employees grow and learn.

A career coach’s job is, ultimately, to be a knowledgeable, unbiased and objective partner to the client who wants to change or is experiencing job stress, job loss or transition for other reasons.

By Jayson Blair

Standing in the front of the coffee table last night, I picked up my phone to check the news and saw the headline. Robin Williams was dead at the age 63. I clicked on the link with a mindset that some horrible accident must have happened. Perhaps he died of a tragic illness that took his life early, like cancer. I was right about the tragic illness, it appeared. I had just picked the wrong horrible disease.

Early reports suggest that Williams, the actor and comedian known for his standup and movies like “Good Will Hunting,” “Patch Adams” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” died of asphyxiation, most likely caused, according to the Marion County, California sheriff’s office, by suicide. That Williams suffered from drug addiction I knew from his standup. What I did not know was that he suffered from the same disease that ailed me, bipolar disorder.

In a 2006 episode of “Fresh Air,” the NPR radio show, Williams told host Terry Gross, “Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes. Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.”

According to news accounts overnight, Williams’ spokeswoman, Mara Buxbaum, said that he had “been battling severe depression as of late.”

I sent a text to several friends who could relate, either because of their mental illness or their addictions. To one message with a friend who also has bipolar disorder, I wrote back, “Shame. For us at least. Hard to say whether it was for him.”

My comment may have seemed callous, but my friend knew what I meant. He wrote back, simply, “I agree.” The truth is that while it may be hard to understand why another person takes their own life, if you’ve been on the brink of that choice, you understand, as Kay Redfield Jamison, a professor of psychiatry who also has bipolar disorder, put it in the title of her book on suicide that ‘night falls fast.’

There is no question, as one commenter put it, that suicide is an insidious choice due to the lies that depression tells us. When those thoughts persistently and pervasively bombard you day in and day out or when they come out of nowhere like a drone attacking in the night’s sky, they can tear you down to the shreds of yourself, wither your resolve and leave you gasping for breath. The only way you see to stop the suffering is to end your life. People say that’s when suicide happens - when people listen to those voices, but I find that to be a metaphor that leads to gross over-simplification – you have little choice about whether you can listen to those voices. It’s your actions that hang in the balance.

By all accounts, Williams made every effort to seek help. By his own account, he spent 17 years clean and sober between 1986 and 2003. He described an addiction to cocaine and was a frequent partner, he said, alongside John Belushi, who died in 1982. Williams said on the show “Inside the Actor’s Studio” that the death of his friend and the birth of his son. “Was it a wake up-call?” Williams asked. “Oh yeah, on a huge level. The grand jury helped too.”

Bipolar disorder, I find, is such a benign phrase for such a terrible disease. It certainly has much less stigma attached to it than its preceding name, manic depression. But manic depression more aptly captures a disease that slams you from what can be a painful high to a crushing low, sending you up again often into a vice where both mania and depression, not mutually exclusive conditions, can squeeze you at the same time in a powerful vice. Too often, in an effort to show people how well those with bipolar disorder can function in life, we minimize how damning the disease can be for the sufferer.

Williams said that he relapsed via alcohol in 2003 while working in a small town in Alaska. In 2006, he checked himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation in Oregon. Williams’ addiction garnered much attention, but his struggle with the underlying conditions, as is true for so many people who get sober, did not. Williams’ co-stars on the set of “The Crazy Ones” said that he appeared so healthy this spring. It is a testament to how deceptive these diseases of the mind can be to the outside observer.

“He seemed to have this aura about him,” the actress, Marilu Henner, told USA Today. “But you don’t really know what lies beneath. It makes me so sad that it came to this.”

But like Williams, we all have many faces. His, at times, masked another solider in a silent army, fighting a secret war that their friends, family and admirers might not always see. Instead of focusing the very real sadness of his suicide, I want to raise a glass to Robin Williams – of something non-alcoholic, as a recovering addict myself – and hold a parade in his honor, for fighting this terrible disease for so long. He may not have made it through the battle, but his effort can be an inspiration for the rest of us to fight.
 By Lisa Krull

Lisa Krull
The other day, a fellow coach asked how my prior consulting experience influenced my perspective and ability as a coach. Hmmm, I thought. Has it? As coaches, we love powerful questions and this was a good one.

In general, I’m used to answering the more common question of how I made the transition from consulting to coaching. I get that question frequently from individuals contemplating a career change, and it has become an easy answer.

After earning my coaching certification, I kept my job as a full-time consultant and started small in my spare time—doing pro bono work, coaching other new coaches and being coached in return (a bartering type of arrangement), and finding an unpaid part-time internship to add experience to my resume. When the timing was right from a personal and professional standpoint, I took a leap of faith and haven’t looked back.

Sure, there’s coaching value that can be gleaned from this response (e.g. being proactive, building your resume, identifying the right timing, practicing your craft, etc.). But the question of how consulting has influenced my perspective and ability as a coach required much more thought. After several days of pondering, I found that it’s also a more fruitful response.

Overall, consulting taught me nearly everything I know professionally. I supported at least five different government agencies and multiple departments within those agencies. I also worked as an internal consultant, providing human resource support to senior leaders. Consulting afforded me the opportunity to gain countless skills—some of the most important being customer service excellence, networking, entrepreneurship, teamwork, patience, assertiveness, project/time management, and presentation skills.

As it turns out, these skills have quite a bit to do with my ability to coach individuals. Here are some examples:

Customer service excellence – As a consultant, I would lose my customer if I wasn’t meeting (and striving to surpass) his expectations. If I’m not sure what will make my client happy, I need to ask questions and become very clear about the end goals before I complete a project that misuses money and resources. Budgets get cut, organizations re-align, missions get changed – and it’s the consultant’s job to go with the flow and deal with unexpected challenges. Similarly, as a coach, I ask powerful questions and help clients identify solutions tailored to their unique needs. I’m not focused on my agenda—I’m focused on my client’s agenda. I continually ask clients what I can do to better support them, how I can be a more effective coach, and whether they’re seeing benefits from our coaching partnership.

Networking (and being proactive!) – Consultants build their network of colleagues, managers, and clients within and across organizations to land new project work and extend/maintain current work. And they actively keep in touch with those individuals. Networking is probably the most important skill (aside from customer service) that every consultant needs to demonstrate to be successful. Likewise, career coaches help their clients learn to network so that clients find the right jobs more quickly and efficiently. Let’s face it—the days of and are long gone. Research demonstrates that about 70%-80% of available jobs aren’t even advertised! How are 100% of individuals going to get hired when they are sitting behind a computer emailing job applications out for only 20%-30% of the job openings? The successful jobseekers learn to network to gain meaningful employment.

Teamwork – In consulting, teamwork is essential to uncovering solutions to difficult problems, meeting tight deadlines, and getting the job done. It requires that all members hold each other accountable and respect each other as individuals so that space is created for idea generation. In coaching, teamwork is an important part of establishing a trusted coach-client relationship. A coach helps empower the client to create solutions to problems and challenges him to think in new and different ways. If you didn’t think a team of two could be effective, just look at peanut butter and jelly, bread and butter, or a hamburger and fries!

Entrepreneurship – In consulting, you use entrepreneurial skills to help your clients find novel solutions, develop business models, identify their brand, create work plans, and acquire project resources. As a coach, I use entrepreneurial skills to help clients think outside the box, create goals and action plans, and practice marketing/selling themselves to hiring managers or other leaders.
Through 11 years of consulting, I’ve seen organizations grow and shrink. I’ve experienced budget surpluses and budget cuts. I’ve spent time traveling and sitting in a cubicle. Recounting these experiences, I know that I will use my consulting skills for the rest of my life. Consulting has made me a better and more effective coach, and for that I am grateful.